There are 6 steps to a formal mediation; 1) introductory remarks, 2) statement of the problem by the parties, 3) information gathering time, 4) identification of the problems, 5) bargaining and generating options, and 6) reaching an agreement.
I give my opening statement during the introductory remarks which will set out the ground rules for the mediation process. These ground rules are what help the mediation move along smoothly. I will usually ask that if attorneys are present, they can confer, but the clients should speak for themselves. Parties should not interrupt each other; and I will give each party the opportunity to fully share their side of the story.
Stating the Problem
Why are you here? This is where you get the opportunity to tell me your side of the story. It is important that I hear both sides of the concerns. Both parties are equally important to the mediation process and therefore; it is important that both parties are fully heard. I want both parties to let me know how they are framing the issue in their mind. f there are lawyers present who make the initial statement, the mediator will then ask the client to also make a statement. The rationale behind the statement of the problem is not a search for the truth; it is just a way to help solve the problem.
I will ask the parties open-ended questions to get to the emotional undercurrents. During the process I may repeat back key ideas to the parties, and will summarize often. I want to make sure that I am understanding not only what you are saying but what is also important about the way you are saying it. I don’t want to miss anything.
Identifying the Problem(s)
This might also be part of other segments. At this section, I will try to find common goals between the parties. My mediations are client driven, however there are times when it is best that I figure out which issues are going to be able to settle or those that will settle first. We will work this process together.
Bargaining and Generating Options / Reaching an Agreement
Methods for developing options may include group processes, discussion groups or sub groups, developing hypothetical plausible scenarios, or a mediator’s proposal where the mediator puts a proposal on the table and the parties take turns modifying it. However, the most commonly used method is the caucus.
Once the clients are committed to achieving a negotiated settlement, then I will propose a brainstorming session to explore potential solutions. This can lead to a final agreement, which diffuses the conflict and provides a new basis for future relations.
I may decide to hold private sessions with both parties in order to move the negotiations along. This caucus session will be confidential. The caucus provides a safe environment in which to brainstorm and surface underlying fears. The goal of the session is to find some common ground by exploring lots of options, and to bring about possible solutions for the parties to think about. Clients can also entertain alternative solutions to their problems without committing themselves to offer the solutions as concessions.
This is where the magic and resolutions occur.